Signed contracts to purchase existing U.S. homes rose slightly in November, the first increase in five months, suggesting sales are stabilizing after several months of declines, an industry group reported Monday. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) said its pending home sales index rose to 101.7 last month from 101.5 in November. Contracts to buy previously owned homes were 1.6 percent below the November 2012 level. Higher mortgage rates and strong price gains over the past two years have slowed home sales. The pending home sales index had fallen for most of the autumn and winter, and completed sales of existing homes fell for three consecutive months, the NAR said earlier this month. “We may have reached a cyclical low because the positive fundamentals of job creation and household formation are likely to foster a fairly stable level of contract activity in 2014,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. The NAR forecast that sales will remain flat in 2014 and then rise to 5.3 million in 2015. Steady job gains should make it easier for more people to purchase homes, and mortgage rates remain low by historical standards.